[Mitch Ransdell is away from the sketch pad this week, so we are re-running his art for Vaughn’s POTW win last March, with a guest essay to explain his week.]
You really have to feel for Andrew Vaughn.
The No. 3 overall pick just three years ago made an extraordinary leap from High-A to the majors — oh, with a year completely away from competitive games thanks to a global pandemic — in 2021, and was rewarded with chaos.
The White Sox so desperately needed his Golden Spikes (2018) bat in the lineup that upon Eloy Jiménez’s late-Cactus League injury, the club ran Vaughn out to replace him in left field. With no professional outfield experience. With no college outfield experience.
And with one weekend of outfield reps at the end of spring training to prepare.
Vaughn responded like a champ, providing Eloy-plus defense in left field (damning with the faintest praise, yes), only late wearing down under the stress of Everything in his rookie season.
The wearing down was punctuated with back pain, understandable given the challenge the White Sox had thrown in front of a player who, let’s face it, for all the talk of his ability at third base or even (high school) shortstop (!) is not built for much beyond first base (where, by the way, Vaughn acquits himself just fine in the field).
But because there is a legend named José Abreu at first base and an oft-injured catcher named Yasmani Grandal DHing, Vaughn has been afforded no more respect in his sophomore 2022 than he was in 2021, still meandering about the outfield (86% of his games are in the corner outfield so far this season), possibly still destined to wear down over the course of the season, under the strain of manning a spot he is not built for or geared toward.
Thus, you see Vaughn’s amazing offense this season (140 OPS+) and then his paltry 0.3 WAR and don’t have to miss a beat to see what gives: Defensive value that tanks his overall marks. Slap Vaughn at first base or DH and just let him hit, and he’s tracking as a 3.0 WAR player, the most valuable hitter on the team outside of Tim Anderson and Luis Robert, and Abreu’s equal.
But this ding to his overall value is not getting Vaughn down. He took his first POTW honors for 2022 (winning twice in spring training, last year) by pacing the White Sox offense at 11-for-26 with three doubles, a homer, three RBIs, a .431 WPA and a lusty slash of .423/.444/.654.
Maybe an offseason prepping for first baseman-in-corner-outfield-clothing will help Vaughn avoid the aches and pains that eventually reduced him to a replacement player in 2021. With the woes of the White Sox offense, without Vaughn playing a central role the prospect of catching up in the AL Central race is dead in the water.
2022 South Side Sox Players of the Week
Tim Anderson (April 8-17)
Tanner Banks (April 18-23)
Lucas Giolito (April 24-May 1)
Dylan Cease (May 2-8)
Michael Kopech (May 9-14)
Davis Martin (May 15-21)
Jake Burger (May 22-29)
Andrew Vaughn (May 30-June 5)
Dylan Cease (40.8)
Michael Kopech (37.6)
Andrew Vaughn (31.5)
Lucas Giolito (28.5)
Tim Anderson (26.2)
Luis Robert (20.9)
Johnny Cueto (19.0)
Matt Foster (14.3)
Tanner Banks (12.8)
Cold Cat Standings
Leury García (-42.4)
Liam Hendriks (-22.0)
Joe Kelly (-21.9)
Tony La Russa (-19.8)
Josh Harrison (-19.4)
Yasmani Grandal (-19.3)
Aaron Bummer (-18.5)
Gavin Sheets (-18.4)
Kendall Graveman (-17.6)
AJ Pollock (-15.7)
Fueled by Player of the Week status, Andrew Vaughn leaps into the White Sox Top 3, and is the highest-ranked hitter. Meanwhile a non-player, Tony La Russa, jumps up to No. 4 on the Cold Cats.
Zach Hayes and Chrystal O’Keefe are now deadlocked atop the writers’ standings, with just three wins separating first place and 15th.
If you’re interested in seeing more of Mitch’s work, or if you’d like to purchase original drawings or prints, contact him via Twitter (@soxsketcher), Instagram (@southsidesharpie), or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for supporting local artists!